2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Board and Card Games

Reading Time: 12 minutes

It seems geeks and gaming go hand in hand, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we here at GeekDad love to game. Today we take a look at the physical games that caught our attention this year. Below you’ll find our favorite role playing, card, and board games of the year. If you prefer the digital gaming we’ll cover those on Wednesday.

Build in the Old West with ‘Saloon Tycoon’. Image by Rob Huddleston.Saloon Tycoon
Suggested By: Rob Huddleston
Mfg: Van Ryder Games
Price: $39.99
Purchase: Saloon Tycoon

One of my favorite games from GenCon, Saloon Tycoon is a gorgeous game of building saloons in the Old West. There’s a nice mix of focusing on yourself and screwing your neighbors. But the best thing about the game is the oh-so-cool 3D saloons that slowly rise over the course of the game. That, and the cool gold nuggets. For more details, read my full review.

Target’s exclusive games from Wonder Forge. Image by Rob Huddleston.Suspicion, Really Bad Art, Stick Stack
Suggested By: Rob Huddleston
Mfg: Wonder Forge
Price: $17.99
Purchase: Suspicion, Really Bad Art, Stick Stack

These three Target-exclusive games quickly became family favorites. In Suspicion, you have to try to determine which of your opponents is a jewel thief, but it is more definitely not a cheap reskinning of Clue. Likewise, Really Bad Art provides a totally different feel from Pictionary, and you’ll need a very steady hand to succeed at Stick Stack. Check out my full review for more details.

Use your brains, before they’re eaten. Only math can save you nowCity of Zombies: Ultimate Edition
Suggested By: Robin Brooks
Mfg: Thinknoodle Games
Price: $45 post postage
Purchase: City of Zombies: Ultimate Edition

City of Zombies is an exciting game that teaches mental math to children without them realizing it. How does it do this? By invoking a zombie apocalypse. The game works from around 6 and up, and as it’s cooperative, allows differing abilities to work alongside one another. The originalCity of Zombies one of my very first reviews on GeekDad and it’s been a family favorite ever since.
Now it’s back. The “Ultimate Edition” has simplified rules and icons, to allow families with less gaming experience to pick it up all the easier. There’s some tougher zombies and new maths to learn, but the easy entry level and addictive gameplay remains.
Difficulty can be introduced via trickier cards, as your children’s math ability improves. With the new cleaner card design, evolving your City of Zombies experience is even easier than before. To see a video talking about the new ultimate edition, click here.

All things old are new again.Pokémon TCG: XY – Evolutions
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: The Pokémon Company International
Price: $3.94-$41.95
Purchase: Pokémon TCG: XY – Evolutions

While the Pokémon video game franchise charges forward into the brave new world of the Alola Region in Pokémon Sun and Moon, the property’s long-lived trading card game has elected to kick it old school. Party like it’s 1999 with the latest Pokémon TCG expansion, Evolutions. It features classic card art sure to please longtime trainers, but things like HP, Attack Damage, and Abilities have all been modernized–making these throwbacks compatible with new mechanics like BREAK and Mega Evolutions. With theme decks like Pikachu Power and Mewtwo Mayhem, secret rare cards never before released on American shores, and even a special retro-themed site and video trailer, Evolutions is a veritable blast from the past! [Review material provided by The Pokémon Company International.]

You know who else like deck-building games?Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis Deck-Building Game
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Cryptozoic Entertainment
Price: $27.98
Purchase: Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis Deck-Building Game

Cartoon Network has been providing quality programming since the 1990s, and Cryptozoic Entertainment has been wowing tabletop gamers since 2010. Put these two entertainment powerhouses together and you get Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis, a deck-building game perfectly tailored for gamer households like yours. Built on the Cerberus Engine, Crossover Crisis puts players in the roles of Cartoon Network characters from Steven Universe and Clarence to Courage the Cowardly Dog and boy genius Dexter as they attempt to be the first to defeat baddies like Adventure Time‘s sinister Ice King. Boasting an impressive 206 game cards—including special Event cards that require players to Fist Bump, play Rock-Paper-Scissors, or complete other silly real-world challenges—it’s the perfect remedy to more pedestrian family game night fare. [Review material provided by Cryptozoic Entertainment.]

Doctor Panic from Asmodee/ReposDoctor Panic
Suggested By: Dave Banks
Mfg: Repos Productions/Asmodee
Price: $39.99
Purchase: Doctor Panic

A cooperative/competitive, hands-on and wacky game where players pretend to save lives in the most hectic hospital, ever. There are lots of tests and procedures to do, but you only have 12 minutes. Don’t worry, if the patient doesn’t make it, you can always play again!. Read the full review.

Oceanos from IelloOceanos
Suggested By: Dave Banks
Mfg: Iello
Price: $39.99
Purchase: Oceanos

From master designer Antoine Bauza comes a beautiful game of exploration beneath the ocean waves. Players draft cards, upgrade submarines, and try to avoid the kraken in this family-friendly game that takes about 30 minutes to play. Read the full review.

Clank! Photo: Jonathan H. LiuClank! A Deck-Building Adventure
Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: Renegade/Dire Wolf
Price: $60.00
Purchase: Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure

Get in, grab an artifact, and get out—before the dragon catches you! This game is a mixture of deck-building, map exploration, and press-your-luck, and the end result is a lot of fun. The “Clank!” mechanic tracks how much noise you’re making, which makes you more likely to get attacked by the dragon. The best loot is hidden deep underground, but you might not make it back alive. Check out the full review here.

Pyramid Arcade components. Photo: Jonathan H. LiuPyramid Arcade
Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: Looney Labs
Price: $77.00
Purchase: Pyramid Arcade

The Pyramid Arcade from Looney Labs isn’t just a single game; it’s a game system. These stackable plastic pyramids can be used to play hundreds of games, and this set provides pyramids and a lot of extra components, along with instructions for a curated selection of the games. Check out a more detailed review here.

Sushi Go Party! Photo: Jonathan H. LiuSushi Go Party!
Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: Gamewright
Price: $21.99
Purchase: Sushi Go Party!

The family-favorite Sushi Go! got a nice upgrade with Sushi Go Party!, which adds a wide variety of new sushi and other foods, and has room for up to 8 players. It’s a stand-alone game, so you don’t need the original to play, and this pick-and-pass game is great for a wide range of ages. Read the full review here.

Ever wish you had more vampires, ghosts, and werewolves in your MtG game? I’ve got good news… (Image Credit: Hasbro)Magic The Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers Shadows Over Innistrad
Suggested By: Anthony Karcz
Mfg: Hasbro
Price: $29.99
Purchase: Magic The Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers Shadows Over Innistrad

The impossibly long-named Magic: The Gathering board game series is back with a new release! Backwards compatible with the previously released base game and expansion, Magic The Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers Shadows Over Innistrad adds new Planeswalkers, new troops, and all new mechanics. This time around, you can deploy, not only multi-figure troops, but heroic creatures that can soak up more damage and force your opponent to rethink their strategy with powerful abilities (including one who’s like a reverse Ghostbuster that shoots ghosts out of his steampunk gun – so freakin cool). The new Planeswalkers, inspired by the MtG Innistrad expansion, are no slouches either. Sorin can heal himself with vampiric abilities, Nahiri can teleport and alter terrain, and, my favorite, Arlinn and her green troops, can transform into powerful werewolves for engaging foes in melee combat. There are new temporary glyphs, crytoliphs with their own powers that tower above the battlefield, totally new spells, and two-sided terrain mats (a welcome change from the single-sided terrain of the previous edition). Innistrad is backwards-compatible with the previous MtG: Arena sets and brings even more depth to your army-building. There are several new scenarios, from a 2-player skirmish, to 4-team combat, to an intriguing 3-on-1 scenario that uses a new board configuration. Easily one of the most popular games of 2015, Magic The Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers Shadows Over Innistrad deserves to be on any MtG fan’s shelf this season.

You don’t have to have a miniature of your ship to play, but it is a nice touch (Image Credit: Anthony Karcz)Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG Core Rulebook
Suggested By: Anthony Karcz
Mfg: Fantasy Flight Games
Price: $48
Purchase: Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG Core Rulebook

Set in the Star Wars universe, Edge of the Empire is one of the most engaging games I’ve had the opportunity to play this year. From the trove of classic aliens that you can choose as your character, to the familiar roles they play, the Core Rulebook gives you all the tools you need to play the exact part you want. Think being a Wookiee mercenary sounds fun? How about a Rodian smuggler? You can even step into the role of a Force-sensitive character, hiding from the Empire in the outer worlds. I mentioned a few of our adventures in my write up of the Krayt Fire that I painted for our campaign; but it really only scratches the surface. A well-run campaign can almost be an embarrassment of riches for Star Wars fans – when you’re faced having to decide between using a droid to hack into a secure facility, negotiate with a Hutt for the release of your friends, or sending the Wookiee in to rip the arms off of everyone she meets, that is a very good day. Indeed, getting together a group of Star Wars fans and being able to play around in and interact with locations, ships, creatures, and people that you’ve only ever observed on screen is part of the real joy of Edge of the Empire. The Core Rulebook has plenty to get you started – from character creation, to weapons and gear, to spaceships and vehicles, to a section just for Game Masters to run a campaign, there’s nothing else you need except a few like-minded souls and a desire to visit a galaxy far, far away.

Rory’s Story CubesRory’s Story Cubes
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Rory’s Story Cubes
Price: About $12
Purchase: Rory’s Story Cubes

Each year, the geniuses behind Rory’s Story Cubes develop more and more versions of the game, expanding our story-making possibilities into fandoms and into the land of imagination. This year, check out the Rory’s Story Cubes versions for Doctor Who, Looney Tunes, and Scooby Doo! Or combine the sets for the ultimate mashup. “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling Weeping Angels!” Simply roll the dice, and use them to make up a story. If you’re new to Rory’s Story Cubes, read my review of the original set.

Jenny Bristol (top) and Asmodee Games (bottom)Timeline and CardLine
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Asmodee Games
Price: $10-15
Purchase: Timeline and CardLine

Asmodee Games continues the popular Timeline line of games with Timeline Americana and Timeline Historical Events. These are perfect to play on their own or you can combine them for an added challenge. Take turns putting events into chronological order, but plan ahead! It gets harder the more cards are added!
With a similar gameplay is the newer CardLine line of games. Tackling subjects such as dinosaurs, animals, and the world’s nations, players put cards in order of size, population, weight, height, or GDP, among others (depending on the game). This one is usually more difficult than Timeline, as the cards are filled with information that we don’t tend to learn in school. Read my full review of both lines of games.

Box and components for new Hasbro editionAcquire
Suggested By: Jamie Greene
Mfg: Hasbro/Avalon Hill
Price: $39.99
Purchase: Acquire

Acquire’ has become a classic in tabletop gaming, but it’s gone through several editions and has at times been out of print and hard to find. So the good news is that Hasbro recently grabbed the license and will make the game available at most major retailers. The game practically defined the stock holding mechanic and can be scaled up or down for young or experienced players. Players compete strategically against other venture capitalists to build the city, merge businesses, and capitalize on shares in the most lucrative corporations. As an investor in the race to make the most money, players need to buy, sell, and trade the right stocks at the right time. ‘Acquire’ is a game that belongs in almost everyone’s collection.

Battle for Vedros: The perfect introduction to ‘Warhammer 40K’Warhamer 40,000: Battle for Vedros (available 23 November)
Suggested By: Robin Brooks
Mfg: Games Workshop
Price: $54.99 (Available in the US only)
Purchase: Warhamer 40,000: Battle for Vedros

If you’re looking for a way to introduce your children to the world of wargames, Games Workshop, and Warhammer 40,000 , then Battle for Vedros is the product for you. The company have repurposed some older miniatures, simplified the rules and made a low-price introduction into the world of miniatures and wargaming. This is a two pronged assault (when combined with the Build and Paint starter set), that brings the entry age to around 10+. There’s an argument to say that Battle for Vedros is the gateway drug to a plastic crack addiction, but if a being geek isn’t about having a some sort of collectible obsession, then I’m doing it wrong! Whether its painting the figures or playing the game, this is the perfect package. For my full review, click here.

The Legends of Andor AwaitLegends of Andor
Suggested By: Jamie Greene
Mfg: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $59.99
Purchase: Legends of Andor

This game came as one of the nicest gaming surprises of the year for us. Legends of Andor is a cooperative game in a fantasy setting that incorporates elements of role-playing, storytelling, and choose your own adventure-style gameplay. Linked scenarios present players with various narratives and prescribed quests. Everyone must work together to capitalize on strengths, employ unique powers, spread out over the land of Andor, and successfully complete each quest before time runs out. And even though the box says ages 10+, the cooperative nature of the game makes it perfectly playable for younger gamers. Expansions are also available with more maps and quests and to allow for 5-6 players.

Image: Rio Grande GamesDominion
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Rio Grande Games
Price: $29.97
Purchase: Dominion

Every tabletop gamer dreams of the perfect game. With Dominion, you’ve hit gold. Though this is not a new game it is still a timeless gift. Dominion is a deck-building game, which means players compete to build their deck as they play. By hiring peasants, claiming land, and constructing buildings, you are out to carve an epic kingdom and bring civilization to the vulnerable masses. Dominion also features 25 unique options, for hundreds of possible combinations, meaning every game will be a new thrill.

Image: Wizards of the CoastDungeons & Dragons Starter Set
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Wizards of the Coast
Price: $12.85
Purchase: Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set

The Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set is a great way to give the gift of imagination to your Geek this holiday season. With this kit, players have everything they need to begin playing the world’s greatest roleplaying game. A basic breakdown of the rules, premade characters, dice, and an adventure means that players don’t have to invest gobs of money to start. They can just dive in and save the world from countless evils with their epic heroes, bringing peace and prosperity to the multiverse. D&D is a world without limits, which has brought decades of fun to players around the world. Would you give anything less to your Geek?

Hit Z RoadHit Z Road
Suggested By: Will James
Mfg: Asmodee
Price: $39
Purchase: Hit Z Road

I don’t buy a whole lot of tabletop games, but every once in awhile, I play a game or read a review, and I know I have to have it. When I read GeekDad Dave’s review of Hit Z Road, I knew I had to have it. Hit Z Road is the only game I’ve purchased all year, and I am glad I did. Ironically, its not the gameplay that drew me to the game at all, but the game design. You can read about it in detail in Dave’s review, but in a nutshell, the game is designed as if a young boy with his family on a road trip across a zombie apocalypse United States had pieced it together from found items. The design alone is worth the investment, but I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. Best of all, if you’re like me and have a hard time finding time to play with others, it can also be played solo!

Volo’s Guide to MonstersD&D: Volo’s Guide to Monsters
Suggested By: Will James
Mfg: Wizards of the Coast
Price: $49
Purchase: D&D: Volo’s Guide to Monsters

I don’t get to play a whole lot of D&D these days, but I do still enjoy reading D&D books. In high school, I bought and read D&D books for years before ever actually playing a game. Cracking open the latest D&D book, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, brought back all those memories.  Volo’s is a great resource for DMs and players because it offers a breadth of details on a lot of monsters that you might not get otherwise. It can certainly enhance the flavor a DM sprinkles in the game, and can open up new possibilities for really creative PCs. For more details, check out GeekDad Jim Kelly’s review.

Get the Official GeekDad Books!